What can leaders learn from how teachers help kids learn?

I was in a classroom recently when a five year old came up to the teacher and said “They won’t let me join in their game.” At this point, the teacher had a choice. She could help the child to solve this issue for himself or tell the group to let him join/find him another activity to do. One option could potentially take ages and require plenty of ‘scaffolding.’ The other option would take a matter of seconds, but the child wouldn’t learn anything from it. Well, he would learn that the teacher would solve his problems for him and he didn’t have to do that for himself.

We are generally pretty good as teachers at taking option one. This teacher certainly was. She provided questions and prompts that gradually built up so the child could solve his own problem, which he did.

I think most of us do pretty well at thinking about what skills and dispositions students need and growing these in our students.  Most of us would look at the scenario above and think, “So what?! Who doesn’t do that?!” But do we do this when leading other teachers?

  • Do we say when we don’t know?
  • Do we nut tricky problems out together?
  • Do we ask probing questions?
  • What about genuinely curious questions?
  • Do we help teachers to feel comfortable being in ‘the pit’
  • Do we help teachers know what to do, when they don’t know what to do?
  • Do we help teachers become even better learners?

Or  are these strategies we use only with students? Are we more likely to provide answers, share the things we know or do, share a great reading… All with the goal of helping and growing teachers’ capacity but the message really is –

“I am the know-er. You are the learner. Now here is some information.”

Wouldn’t we call that ‘spoon feeding’ if we did it with students…?

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